5 Quickest and the Longest States to Get RN Licenses | Health Carousel Travel Nursing (2024)

Whether you’re a first-time travel nurse or a seasoned veteran, the matter of obtaining licensure in a new state you’d like to work in is always a hurdle. In some states, nurses can obtain licensure from the state’s board of nursing usually within 2 weeks. We’ll discuss the states that have the longest licensure windows, on average, for nurses who reside in another state. We’ll also review the top 5 quickest states to get a nursing license in.


If you’re an experienced travel nurse, you likely are familiar with the term “compact state license.” A compact state is one that has enacted the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC) through legislation. This enables registered nurses with an active RN license and who are a permanent resident of that state to work in other participating compact states without having to obtain additional nursing licensure. For example, a nurse whose permanent residence is in Baltimore, Maryland, can work a travel assignment in Augusta, Maine, without having to obtain licensure. Why? Because both states are members of the Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC) agreement or compact state alliance. Get the ultimate guide to compact nursing states here.

See a map and full explanation of compact state traveling by clicking here.

If a nurse resides in a state that is not an NLC member, but wishes to travel to a state that is an NLC member, they must apply for licensure in that state just as they would anywhere else. Upon obtaining a license in that compact state, however, they do not have the same access to all other compact states, as someone who resides in an NLC member state would—they only have licensure for that single state. We have travel nurse assignments available in all 50 states. View them in On Demand where you can search, apply and be first in line for your dream job.


Now that we have a general understanding of NLC member states and who can travel on a compact license, let’s look at the states that can be most time-consuming for a nurse when trying to obtain permanent licensure. Each timespan listed is an average—in some cases licensure can be obtained more quickly, while in some circ*mstances, it could take even longer. Also, for newly graduated nurses, licensing will usually take longer pending receipt of your nursing board scores and nurse graduate program transcripts.


Surprised California doesn’t top the list? The Buckeye State actually takes the cake as the longest state to get licensed in, on average, and with attractive Midwestern cities like Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland, many nurses in the surrounding states (and beyond) go through Ohio’s long licensure process. Like most states, Ohio requires a fingerprint and criminal background check. Learn more by visiting the Ohio Board of Nursing website. If you want to work in Ohio, we can get you submitted quickly to the top travel nurse jobs in the state.


Ah, California—a bucket-list destination for many travel nurses. With promises of gorgeous weather and high pay (though be sure to consider the high cost of living in many major cities), California is the state our recruiters are most-asked about when the topic of licensure comes up. With a similar (though sometimes shorter) time frame to Ohio’s licensure process, travel nurses interested in California jobs must take the long-view. Consider applying for licensure first while taking another assignment elsewhere as the process plays out. Once you obtain your California RN license, you can then begin your Golden State job search. Please keep in mind that California does require fingerprints.

To learn more about obtaining a California nursing licensure by endorsem*nt, check out this recent article from HCTN. You can also explore the California Board of Nursing website for more information. Land your dream California travel nurse job faster when you travel with us. Start your next travel nurse adventure in California today by checking our assignments available.



Before diving too deeply into the Maryland RN licensure process, it’s important to again recognize that Maryland is a compact state. Therefore, if your permanent residence is in another NLC member state and you have a compact nursing license, you can work as a travel nurse in Maryland without additional licensure.

If you do not already have a compact state license and are interested in working in Maryland, however, be prepared to wait 10 weeks, on average, for a Maryland RN license. With excellent opportunities for travelers in Baltimore, the wait is worth it for many nurses. Be the first in line for Maryland travel nurse jobs when you travel with us. View our Maryland jobs available. Learn more about the fingerprint and background check process and more on the Maryland Board of Nursing website.


Another compact state, Maine is home to beautiful Acadia National Park, world-famous lobster festivals, and many quaint seaside towns. For these reasons and more Maine assignments have become a hot commodity in the traveler community, especially in the summer and fall months. If you’re interested in working as a travel RN in Maine (and you don’t have a compact state nursing license), expect to wait 8-10 weeks for licensure. Fingerprints and a background check are required; learn more about the process on the Maine Board of Nursing website. We will help you get first in line to the top travel nurse jobs in Maine. Discover plenty of our outstanding assignments available.


The Last Frontier is calling! While that may be the case, a nurse interested in working in Alaska must first go through the (on average) 8-week nursing license process. Alaska, like all the aforementioned states, requires fingerprints and a background check from nurses applying for a license. Learn more about obtaining your license in Alaska on the state’s Board of Nursing website. When you travel with us, we'll help you get that Alaskan travel nurse experience of a lifetime faster than any other agency. Take the first step by applying to our available assignments.


While these states didn’t make the top 5, they were very close, and are worth keeping in mind as a travel nurse.

  • Illinois
  • Michigan
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Indiana
  • Nebraska
  • Iowa

5 States Where One Can Get a Nursing License Quickly

Now that we’ve reviewed the states with the longest licensing turnaround time, let’s review the quickest states to get a permanent nursing license.


Georgia notoriously has one of the quickest turnaround times for permanent nursing licensure. After you submit your application and requirements, expect to have your license within 10-14 days. We have plenty of amazing positions available in Georgia that we can get you submitted to quickly!


Alabama is another state with an average licensure time frame of around 2-3 weeks. Land your ideal Alabama travel nurse job faster when you travel with us! We have plenty of opportunities available in Alabama.


While the Hawaii Board of Nursing’s website states an average of 45-60 days for licensure, most nurses receive their new license within 2 weeks. We help you get first in line to the top travel jobs. Start your dream assignment today by applying to our available job openings.

South Carolina

South Carolina’s Board of Nursing website states the licensure process takes around 14 days. We have a multitude of fantastic travel nurse opportunities available in South Carolina that we can get you submitted to quickly!


Kentucky is another state where nursing licensure turnaround time is typically quick, averaging around 7-14 business days. If you want to work in Kentucky, we can get you submitted quickly to the top travel nurse jobs in the state.


There are a few cases when temporary licenses can be obtained through the state board of nursing. Sometimes states grant temporary permits for nurses to practice. This is when a nurse has applied for permanent licensure within the state, but the state may be backed up with processing. In this case, the state grants a temporary state nursing license.

Other states, like Arizona, provide a temporary travel nursing license to travel nurses. These are referred to as walkthrough states. Travel nurses often apply for these, which allows them to practice nursing in the state during the duration of their travel nursing assignment. Not all states will grant temporary licenses, so check with the state board of nursing before assuming.

Remember, the average times listed above will vary depending on the time of year and current demand. If you live in a compact state and hold an active RN license, apply for a compact nursing license, which allows you to work in other participating compact states. A compact license can help you bridge the gap when awaiting permanent licensure. Get offers to top jobs faster when you travel with us. Get submitted quickly and be the first in line for an interview.

5 Quickest and the Longest States to Get RN Licenses | Health Carousel Travel Nursing (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Duane Harber

Last Updated:

Views: 6189

Rating: 4 / 5 (51 voted)

Reviews: 90% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Duane Harber

Birthday: 1999-10-17

Address: Apt. 404 9899 Magnolia Roads, Port Royceville, ID 78186

Phone: +186911129794335

Job: Human Hospitality Planner

Hobby: Listening to music, Orienteering, Knapping, Dance, Mountain biking, Fishing, Pottery

Introduction: My name is Duane Harber, I am a modern, clever, handsome, fair, agreeable, inexpensive, beautiful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.